Tagata Pasifika The Pacific voice on New Zealand television since 1987

New book explores what it means to be a tama Samoa

tama samoa book
Photo: Supplied
Ann-Tauilo Motuga | Videographer

A new book for young Pasifika men has launched to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week.

Written by husband-and-wife duo Mani and Dahlia Malaeulu, Tama Sāmoa encourages Pasifika men to engage in vulnerable talanoa regarding their wellbeing. The book is a companion to Dahlia’s earlier release for young Pasifika women named Teine Sāmoa.

Tama Sāmoa opens with a fictional story based on four high school friends who are part of a special letter-writing project. Each of their entries begin with the words ‘dear uso’, before they share realistic stories of identity crisis, cultural challenges, their need to belong and the impact these have on their wellbeing.

Co-author Dahlia Malaeulu says one of the overarching themes is exploring what it means to be a tama Sāmoa.

“’Am I supposed to harden up and not talk like how the world is telling me to do, and how my culture has raised me to do?’ That has taken a toll on our boys, and we’ve seen that firsthand as educators,” Dahlia Malaeulu says.

The book also features student study questions and the Tama Sāmoa Project – a space created for 14 Sāmoan men to share their boys-to-men stories, lessons and journeys to help Pasifika men to be better understood and supported.

“We’ve got suicide statistics dominated by young males year after year; that hasn’t changed,” Dahlia says.

“There needs to be a change, there needs to be talanoa, there needs to be better connection, and that’s something that the boys, the authors within these stories, actually talk about openly. They talk about schools being an issue, teachers not being able to connect with them.”

Simati Leala, who is a Year 11 student and one of the contributing authors for the Tama Sāmoa Project, expresses how he feels about a lack of support in the education system.

“The way high school is, I don’t reckon it suits us Pacific Islanders. The chopping and changing of all these different teachers makes it feel like a rollercoaster,” he says.

“Going up with a good teacher, and then going downhill with those teachers who just don’t get us.”

Another student asks teachers “to help us understand. Don’t leave us hanging and then blame us.”

Co-author Mani Malaeulu says there is the need for a new tama Sāmoa code, where Pasifika men can be understood and accepted as who they are in this world. Mani says that men find their strength and resilience through real talanoa.

“When we fall, it is through our talanoa, through our stories that we can get back up again.”

To celebrate the release of Tama Sāmoa, Dahlia and Mani have partnered up with Le Va to host a digital talanoa on Facebook this Friday 1 October at 2pm. All are invited to attend and a free Tama Sāmoa book will be up for grabs.

Tama Sāmoa can be bought online within New Zealand here.

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